Celebrating International Women’s Day at SAE

08 Mar 2019

Being a woman in a field dominated by men is not without challenges. Here at SAE we are doing what we can to encourage all our students and staff to be the best that they can be, regardless of their gender identity.

We recently welcomed Northern Power Women, a campaign for gender equality from the North, to our Liverpool campus to record their podcast. The event was really positively received by students and staff across the board.

As it’s International Women’s Day today (8 March) we thought it would be a great opportunity to speak to some of the fantastically talented women who study across our four UK campuses.

Women in Audio and Music Business

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is a leading think tank studying diversity and inclusion in entertainment through original research and sponsored projects.

Their recent study looked at the gender of content creators across 700 popular songs on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts from 2012 to 2018, as well as the gender of Grammy award nominees from the past seven years.

The report found that only 22% of artists appearing on the year-end list are female. In 2018, no female artists in a duo or band appeared on the end-of-year chart. In terms of songwriters, only 12% of writers credited on the chart were female. Even more shockingly, only 2% of producers were female.

With regards to the Grammys, only 10% of all nominees across five categories over the past seven years have been female.

In an effort to change these statistics, the UK BBC Radio 1 DJ and tastemaker Annie Mac was recently appointed to head up a new music industry initiative called the Equalising Music Pledge. The initiative, launched in partnership with Smirnoff, aims to achieve a greater gender balance in the music industry.

The campaign is also endorsed by the PRS Foundation’s Keychange initiative, an international effort to empower women to transform the future of music and encourage festivals to achieve a 50:50 gender balance by 2022.

Here at SAE, we are doing what we can to give our students the confidence and opportunity to succeed in spite of the stumbling blocks they may encounter.

Tasha Cole is a first year Audio Production student who performs as performs as DJ Miss Kiff. At SAE London, three female DJs - including Tasha - will be performing on the ground floor booth at SAE House from 1.00 - 4.00 pm today.

Tasha has experienced firsthand how hard it can be to break into a male dominated industry.

She said:

"When I starting DJing, being a female DJ was relatively new. You had to prove that you could beatmatch and play just as equally or even better than the men. It’s not every day you receive that peak slot. However I continue to drive forward and prove that I too deserve to DJ in that peak slot. The key is perseverance and patience. Just own it."

Tasha is not the only female student at SAE striving to get ahead in their career. Maiya Jazwierska, an Audio Production student at SAE Oxford is now working for Funnel Music as a show representative. She impressed the Funnel team at a talk on our Oxford campus with her thoughtful questions and extensive industry knowledge and reached out to Funnel after the event to enquire about employment opportunities.  

Additionally, SAE London Audio Production alumna, Chloe Smithyes, who graduated in August 2018, was recently selected for an internship with Sony records.    

With each of these stories of hard work, commitment and dedication, these women become one step closer to becoming the award winners and chart toppers of tomorrow.

Women in Animation and Games

Last week, POC in Play was launched by several gaming industry veterans with the aim of improving racial diversity and equity in the UK games industry. But there is still a long way to go in the quest for representation across the board.

At the Oscars on 25 February, Pixar's computer-animated Bao won the award for Best Animated Short. The director, Domee Shi, is the first woman to helm a Pixar short film and she worked alongside female producer Becky Neiman-Cobb. Although Domee Shi is the first woman to direct a short for Pixar, Brenda Chapman directed Brave, the 2012 Pixar feature length film.

Bao’s success at the award ceremony shows the creative potential for women in the world of animation.  

Disney and Pixar's latest animated short, Purl, shines a light on the ongoing issue of gender equality in the workplace.

Kristen Lester’s computer-animated film explores the issue through the lens of the fictitious B.R.O Corporation, where the male executives aren’t happy about the fact that they have to work with the eponymous cute and friendly ball of yarn, Purl.

Purl becomes aggressive and misogynistic as she tries to keep pace with her male co-workers. It’s only when a new ball of yarn shows up to work in her department that the consequences of her behaviour start to sink in and she changes her behaviour.  

We spoke to Sam Mickan, a Game Art and Animation student at SAE London who identifies as trans non-binary.

What barriers to entry do you think there are for women in the creative industries?

I think as creative industries continue to merge with technology in areas like virtual reality, video games and animation, there is still a lot of stereotyping in gender that affects how women are perceived in the workplace. A lot of these stereotypes point to a belief that women will always default to thinking about things like hair, make-up and romantic comedies when thinking creatively, or suggest that they can't handle or be interested in anything highly technical. No man will recognize it, and the most common reaction to that is "that doesn't happen anymore, that was back in the day", but it comes down to micro aggression and assumptions in which all these will be evident and still very present. Also, there is the ongoing issue of the gender gap which is also very discouraging to any woman trying to make it into the industry.   

Have you encountered any problems as a result of your gender identity in the world of Game Art and Animation so far?

I am still pretty new to this world so I haven't found anything that I would consider problematic besides the everyday problems which I am already used to that stem from identifying as trans non binary (example: people not using my preferred pronouns, misgendering me or purposefully avoiding using my preferred name, etc). I have discovered the world of games and animation is already diverse in a way; I am surrounded by a particular group of people in which the majority love fantasy and sci-fi, and can somehow relate to being an "outsider", either because they have been bullied in the past, or because their favorite characters are normally aliens and outcasts, a lot of times both. Because of this I have found it has been easier sometimes to talk about my gender identity and my personal experience than it would be to a business manager or lawyer. It’s like being one more unicorn in a field of fairies, warlocks and other fantastic creatures. I try to think about this whenever any of the other problems happen.

The recent Disney and Pixar short animation, Purl explores the problem of gender equality in the workplace. As a gender queer woman, how do you think the creative industries can be more inclusive to all gender identities?

Although Pixar still uses a lot of the stereotypes I mentioned before to portray the feminine and masculine in the short film, I thought the fact that they used a ball of yarn instead of a woman, made it a little bit more inclusive of the different experiences there are of being a woman. The character of Purl is a feminine ball of yarn who proves she can be as flexible as anyone in a work environment and perfectly adapts to her surroundings, in this case by changing her shape. It makes you ask the question, what exactly is to be a woman or a man? Are pink, soft and high pitched always a must in order to be a woman? And does that really make you incompatible with masculine traits? Purl proves how, in a work environment, other perspectives on a problem can help to solve it faster or more effectively, although in the beginning her thoughts are completely ignored. Speaking about the creative industries, diversity in gender, and including all gender identities, can definitely increase the input of unique and original ideas that will more accurately portray reality and will achieve better communication of human thoughts and experiences.

To what extent do you think high profile companies like Disney and Pixar have a responsibility to use their platform to improve access for all?

Companies like Disney and Pixar are in the spotlight now. I think while the creative industry continues to be monopolized by huge companies, the responsibility they have is huge. They are trend setters, and if they want to continue creating fresh new and original stories that appeal to the humanity of people they have to diversify in every way. Gender is one way but race, culture, and disability are equally important, and understanding intersectionality is key. I think it's a matter of time until some competitor comes up with a strong diverse team of artist creating unique and original content that will put big companies to the test. If they want to keep their crown and also achieve good portrayal of diversity on their stories, they have to diversify in their team of artists and creators.  

Women in Web

Stephanie McLeod, a Web Development student at SAE Liverpool is planning to explore the question ‘Are girls intimidated by the tech industry?’ in her major project.

Although the project is currently only in the planning stages, Stephanie is keen to pinpoint why technology is not appealing to many women and wants to discuss solutions to reshape the stigma around the tech sector.

She aims to develop a fun, interactive, light and artistic platform with a YouTube channel with simple tutorials.

She said:

“Web development has been a true eye opener for me, prior to studying at SAE Liverpool I had a more design background opposed to computer science. Studying the course has educated me in different scripting languages, with the knowledge of practical skills to design & develop a website. The support and guidance throughout has made a dramatic impact on expanding my skill-set. I am working on a few different projects. I am currently building a web application on recycling old technology into Art, that hopefully will be exhibited at the Makers Community in the City Centre. I have a part-time job as web designer with a web company called Welton Media in Liverpool, covering wide range of different clients such as doctors, dentists, schools etc. I am constantly putting my ideas to life.”

We have no doubt that Stephanie’s final project and her ongoing work as a web designer will incentivise more women to get involved in the tech industry in the future.

Women in Film

Whenever award season comes around it is always surrounded by important discussions regarding diversity and gender equality.

The Independent recently published an article that asked ‘How can we talk about progress at the Oscars when three-quarters of the nominations at the Oscars went to men?’

Although there was a small increase in the number of female nominees, up eight from last years 44, more than 75% of the Oscars nominations went to men. The Women’s Media Centre says that at this rate it will take half a century before there is gender equality.

The 2019 Oscar nominations saw no women nominated in Directing, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, and Visual Effects, and only one woman nominated in Animated Feature film and in each of the two writing categories.

Ellen Francis, a Film Production Student at SAE Glasgow said:

“Coming into a class where it is 1/3rd women is unfortunately a reflection of how women are represented amongst a male dominated industry. However, I have been very lucky to share this class with many like-minded men who care about women's representation in the film industry just as much as we do. As a class representative, I have taken action to encourage group diversity when making projects and even mix the seats around to stop the class from splitting into two genders, which did happen.”

She added: “What reassures me is how brave women are for choosing to go into a career where they know they may encounter sexism on countless occasions, yet continue down that path because they want to make great and inspiring work just as much as everyone else.”

We are confident that with students like Ellen, we are training the next generation of female award-winners at SAE.

To find out more about the brilliant creative people who study at SAE, visit our Life at SAE page.